Buyer beware: Tips for adopting or buying a puppy

by: Amy Wade-Carotenuto

Executive Director, Flagler Humane Society

Of course, if you are looking for a puppy, when you have decided that there is room in your home, in your heart, and in your wallet, for a four-legged family member, I would recommend you check out the Flagler Humane Society first. Visit our website www.FlaglerHumaneSociety.org for photos and descriptions of our adoptable pets. We are open seven days a week with staff to help you choose the perfect partner. We encourage you to involve your existing dog in choosing his new best friend. Shelter animals are fully vaccinated, neutered / neutered, dewormed, chipped and behavior tested. At the FHS we get dogs of all breeds. This month we had Maltese, German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkies and many more. Of course, I recommend the mixed breeds. Statistically speaking, they have fewer health and behavioral problems than purebreds.

But what if you can’t find the love of your life with the Flagler Humane Society? Where else should you look? Well, you could start by visiting the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona, Putnam Animal Control in Palatka, or St. John’s Animal Control in St. Augustine. You can check out websites such as adoptapet.com or petfinder.com online.

If you are buying or adopting from a person or small organization that you are not familiar with, what should you look out for?

If you are buying from a breeder or other non-profit organization, the animal must come with an up-to-date health certificate signed by a veterinarian. The document is entitled “Official Veterinary Inspection Certificate”. The doctor must have examined the animal within the last 30 days. If someone sells a dog or cat in Florida without a health certificate, they can be found guilty of a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $ 1,000. If a breeder provides you with AKC papers, keep in mind that these have nothing to do with the health of the animal.

Nonprofits such as humane societies and rescue organizations may not be required to provide health certificates, but there are a number of other rules. Nonprofits must vaccinate and dewormer pets prior to adoption. Due to the nature of the shelter and overpopulation, Florida lawmakers voted decades ago that all public and private animal welfare organizations provide for the sterilization of all dogs and cats upon adoption. Non-profit organizations must keep detailed records of the animals admitted, their origin and the type of disposition. These records must be made available to the public. (Ours are on our website.)

When buying or adopting a pet, you should be able to see where the pet is housed. When dealing with a breeder, can you see the animal’s parents? Don’t trust a fancy website. Insist on seeing the animal’s living quarters. If someone looking to move or sell a pet asks you to meet them behind a grocery, restaurant, or gas station, it should trigger a red flag.

Before you change money, do some research on your new pet’s veterinary background and medical needs. If the pet doesn’t have bright eyes and energetic fur, is there an explanation for this? Can you contact the seller if you get the new shelter and there are unforeseen health problems?

If you adopt or buy and have problems, contact your local animal service and report any unscrupulous groups and vendors. In Bunnell, Flagler Beach and the unincorporated county call 386-246-8612. In Palm Coast, call 386-986-2520.

Having a new pet is an emotional and financial commitment, but the unconditional love you receive from your pet is well worth it.

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